Our director Tamsin Adams features in the mailOnline offering advice to potential house buyers of properties which don’t have the relevant statutory consents.

Tamsin Bryant of architects Adams & Collingwood replies: When it comes to planning permission, we have three key tests: what, when and how.

Obviously every property presents different issues, so please use this list as guidance, and if in doubt contact a professional.

What: Certain types of work can be done without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called ‘permitted development rights’.

Check if the works involved in your property can be applied under permitted development rights. These are detailed in The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or listed buildings.

If the property is listed, it is a criminal offence not to seek consent when it is required. If this is the case, be sure to be thorough and obtain the relevant consents prior to your ownership.

Not knowing a building is listed is not a defence to any criminal proceedings. This makes it very important that any doubt is investigated and discussed with the local planning authority.

When: If the work that has been done does not fall under permitted development rules, the next thing to consider is when the extension was built.

If the work was done more than four years ago. you can make a formal application to your local authority for a certificate to determine whether your unauthorised development can become lawful through the passage of time, rather than through compliance with space standards.

This would mean you could continue without the need for planning permission.

If it’s been less than four years, or if the application for the certificate is declined, this would mean applying for full planning permission.

This will cost you in consultant fees and application fees, and the extension may also invalidate your insurance.

As the previous owner technically broke the rules, it wouldn’t be fair for you to pay the price for it. This may be a bargaining chip to negotiate a lower price.

How: You can apply for a retrospective planning application for the work that has been carried out.

Although a local authority may ask for a planning application to be submitted, it does not mean that planning permission will automatically be granted. The application will be treated in the usual way.

If the retrospective application is refused, the local authority can issue an enforcement notice which requires you to put things back as they were.

If it is a complex case, you may ask the seller to apply for this retrospective application prior to your purchase, or negotiate a purchase subject to retrospective planning consent.

Building regulations: As well as ensuring the extension is in line with planning rules, you also need to make sure it meets building regulations.

There are minimum standards for design, construction and alterations which are set by the Government.

If the previous owner doesn’t have the relevant completion certificates, you can apply for ‘regularisation’ or retrospective approval.

This involves a local council building control surveyor visiting the site and assessing the work to see if it’s up to standard.

If not, they will recommend improvements to bring it up to standard so they can issue the appropriate certificates.

Once again this may be a bargaining chip to negotiate a lower price.

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